When family businesses run into trouble because of in-fighting, Rick Neulight likes to step in and save them.
Neulight, president of National Management Strategies of South Whitehall Township, specializes in companies going through transition, particularly family businesses.
Family businesses can be challenging when family members are angry or resentful of each other, he said.
Neulight, who has written a training manual for businesses, said he helps organizations set realistic expectations for their teams. He works on creating an atmosphere of trust and improving communication.
Neulight said his goal is to “to open people up to be available and to lose resistance” to change.
But in order for that to happen, he said, “They must become vulnerable.”
Neulight meets individually with team members and then convenes them in a group.
The meetings can be uncomfortable. There are no time limits and no breaks are allowed during these meetings.
Neulight cites his empathetic listening approach.
Like any good counselor, Neulight wants his clients to come to their own realization, which he said is the best way to create lasting change.
“It has to come from them,” he said.
Dan Caplan, vice president of Arrangements Unlimited Inc., an event-planning business in King of Prussia, turned to Neulight for advice when Caplan joined his father’s business.
“While transitioning into a family business, there are unique issues. You are unaware of the dynamic as it is occurring,” Caplan said. “You might be arguing about a budget while talking about family matters at the same time.”
Caplan said sometimes family members are reluctant to say what’s really on their mind.
“But sometimes brutal honesty is needed,” he said. “Rick helped us to get that balance.”
Caplan said because of Neulight’s help, the company is flourishing as a team. Communication is better and business is kept separate from family matters.
“Rick’s listening was so important,” said Lois Caplan, co-owner of Arrangements Unlimited. “He listened carefully before giving direction, but he really just helped them to figure it out for themselves.”
Neulight said his approach challenges people’s habits.
“The parties recognize and get accountable for their behavior,” he said. “Much of it was knee-jerk or automatic behavior being repeated and relived.”
Another client, Donald Lockard, owner of Eisenhardt Mills, an architectural millwork in Forks Township, said Neulight helped him learn to step back so his daughter, Amanda Zimmerman, could become president and run the company.
“When they are your own family, you sometimes can be overprotective, plus you may not recognize family members’ abilities,” Lockard said.
Said Neulight, “I empower owners to remove the victim when failures are blamed on the outside circumstances, like economy or their own weakening abilities, and I give them back control.”